My Soul Forgot
A short story:
They called her Ruby. When Alise, her mother, was asked where she came up with a name like that, she replied, “It was the woman’s name in a novel I read.” Further inquiry about the book’s title and where it was now, gained the answer, “I can’t remember. Must have left it somewhere.”
That’s what happened to Ruby. She was left somewhere.
More than once.
Still, Ruby was always brought back to Alise. As soon as she could speak clearly enough to be understood, Ruby asked, “Why did you leave me there, Mama?”
“I didn’t forget you. I just didn’t remember where you were.”
By the time Ruby graduated from high school she decided the next time Alise left her anywhere, that’s where she would stay. If she kept where she came from to herself, she’d not be taken back again.
Ruby wanted to forget her mother, but she didn’t. She remembered everything.
It didn’t take long for Bill to notice Ruby’s enthusiasm to please the customers as she hustled around the Diner where she worked. After a month of chatting her up he said, “I understand you don’t like living in the Women’s Shelter. I’ve got an extra bedroom, want to rent it?
Ruby squinted in thought as she rushed over to pour coffee for another patron. Bill motioned for her to refill his cup too and slipped a note over to her side of the counter. “It’s my address. Come over after work to see if it suits you.”
She blinked rapidly.
Bill smirked. “No hanky panky, I promise.”
The light in the apartment was dim. Ruby could only see there was a sofa, coffee table, and big screen TV in the living room. She asked, “May I use your bathroom?”
She passed her hand over the old, but immaculately clean porcelain of the tub, flushed the toilet, ran the hot water from the tap over her hands, and decided to move in.
He’d lied. She found out within days the extra bedroom was not for her exclusive use.
Bill did take her lots of places and always brought her back to their apartment. Ruby felt safe and happy when he said, “Quit that job and we’ll have more time to be together.”
Six months passed by when she saw the note on the refrigerator door.
I may not have mentioned it before. I work as a Merchant Marine.
My ship is going to the Far East. I’ll be gone for many months.
Kiss the baby for me.
Tears trickled down her cheeks. He left me here.
Shivering, she knocked on the door. Alise answered, dressed in hat, coat, and gloves. She asked, “Want to come with me?”
“Did you think I’d come here?”
“Of course, Ruby. I knew someone would bring you back. Come on I’m going to the Mall.”
DID MY SOUL FORGET?
When did my soul forget
what it’s like to be held captive inside skin?
Feeling wind blown rain, sleet, snow, and hail,
or the blazing sun beating down
to let painful chaffs and blisters form
on unshod feet, working hands, and face
to pay off some endless life debt.
My soul did not forget
money cannot guarantee happiness.
But seems not to remember that poverty
often forms a cunningness that may or may not regret
ruthless choices made on the basis of need
for a secure and safe place where
I can develop a new mind-set.
Each new life based on—what?
Thoughts and deeds from some previous life
not remembered, but I’m still supposed to accept.
My current lot in life bought
with those ancient coins of sin and negligence,
paying for another round of endless beginnings
and endings on the wheel of life—forever caught.
Soul memories—hah—what a joke.
Hear a tiny voice within over the outer and inner clamor
when born in ignorance to parents whose beliefs
I could not share, no matter how often they spoke
of life everlasting, while I continue to toil,
live in sorrow, only to die, become dust,
then again strap on life’s yoke.
What could I have done
that was so bad, unethical, uncaring
to deserve, or have earned,
an endless round, a senseless run
that takes me again and again
to that same starting point?
Where is the joy—the fun?
What difference: new soul—old soul?
If still forced to tumble in the chromosome lottery,
where I might go from one extreme
over to the other end of the pole,
yet never seem to understand
how to change the pattern
of beliefs that make me whole.
Pain, suffering, and depression
might teach me to be compassionate,
or just as easily to be bitter and resentful,
leading to some addiction’s submission.
Apparently my soul also forgot
how difficult it is to let go
of a dependent compulsion.
Am I truly the result of my own bad choices?
Who made that plan: Up, down, around, and around?
What cruelty it is to force forgetting,
but feel the physical and emotional courses
when locked into a body—
that captures my senses, and then demand
I take responsibility when affected by exterior forces.
I must ask, what is having a free-will worth?
When it too is expressed by greedy thugs,
using fear and treachery to maintain their position.
Conditions enforced by the overworked and uncouth.
What difference does it make
if my life is affected by the unscrupulous
who, none-the-less got to begin with a joyous birth?
And that’s another thing, the karma stuff.
Any poor choice I make is balanced instantly,
but I must wait for another lifetime, maybe more,
only getting—without much affect—to huff and puff
at those who live extravagantly on the backs
of those who create their wealth.
Never knowing if the hand of judgment is evenly tough.
Maybe my soul never got in my skin.
Instead, stayed within the spiritual realm,
leaving a resentful me to cope and deal
with my thick emotions and maturity so thin.
Still, supposed to listen and hear a tiny voice,
telling me what to do—how to feel.
“Who is she to judge me?” I scream, adding to the din.
I spin back to ask: My soul—did me—she really make?
Based on her need to learn?
Well, then she or God needs to get
inside this skin of mine and take note—awake
to the reasons and causes surrounding
the choices I actually get to have,
for selecting any of the paths I take.